Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Get ready for a third installment of Taken, the franchise launched by EuropaCorp’s Luc Besson and released by 20th Century Fox. I’m told that Liam Neeson is closing a deal in the vicinity of $20 million to reprise his role as Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent who used his brutal skills after his daughter was kidnapped in France to be sold into sex slavery. Neeson was a reluctant participant in the first sequel but got paid in the $15 million neighborhood. Now I hear he’s getting another raise, and that EuropaCorp is planning to start production in February.

Next will come the effort to make deals with Maggie Grace, who played his daughter in the first two films, and Famke Janssen, who played his ex-wife. They have a script well in the works from Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who teamed for the first two films. No director has yet been set, but don’t be surprised if Olivier Megaton comes back. He’s the Besson protege who directed the last film, which cost around $45 million and grossed over $376 million. The first film cost around $25 million and grossed over $226 million, with Pierre Morel directing. I thought the original film was vastly better than the sequel. But when the sequel does better than the original at the box office, and doesn’t cost that much more, of course they will try for the trifecta. The key has been getting Neeson. Remarkable that the former boxer will make more money than he has ever in his long career, and that he has grown into one of the most bankable action stars in the business. This is after he stood still for most of his career and suddenly started kicking ass in his later years, leading to this payday at the tender age of 61. Neeson is repped by CAA.